"For though this summoner were wood as a hare,
to tell his harlotry I will not spare."
--Chaucer, "The Friar's Tale"
With winter's rains behind us, maybe for good, Berkeley's quickly falling under the spell of spring fever. There's a fidgety March Hare who lives in the back room at Castle in the Air, and he came leaping out a few days ago to frolic and play in the sunshine and make strange faces when no one is looking. The prim Easter egg vendor near the front of the store pretends not to like him, but I think she does.
His reappearance got us wondering about the origin of the phrase "Mad as a March Hare." Apparently, the first popular use of the phrase was in the quote above from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The "harlotry" spoken of in the poem is probably a comparison to the antics of British hares in their mating season, which lasts from February to September. During that time, hares of both sexes can be seen leaping straight up in the air and boxing at each other. (It's said that the females will sometimes push away frisky males with a quick shove of their forelegs.)
Of course, the most famous mad March Hare is from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. His jaunty outfit in John Tenniel's illustrations is topped off with some straw on his head. This was thought to be a sign of madness in Victorian days. Between his eccentric dress code and his conviction that any time of day is the perfect time for tea, we could probably all learn a thing or two from Mr. Hare.